The attempt to rope in the Bru refugees, who migrated from Mizoram to Tripura, into the elections is perhaps the latest proof of BJP's persist bid to capture India at any cost. The Bru tribals are those who sought asylum in Tripura two decades ago following racial conflicts.
However, the BJP's tactical bid to make them vote in their refugee camps under the influence of BJP administration, turned futile against population resistance there. At the end of virulent people's agitation under non-government and civil organizations before the office of Election Commission at the state capital, Aiazwl, the Central Election Commission was forced to replace the Chief Electoral Officer of the state SB Shashank, with Ashish Kundra. The Commission also had to concede the demands of the agitators to rescind the removal of principal secretary who had spoken against the anti-democratic move of the Chief Electoral Officer, and to not allow the refugees vote for Mizoram assembly election within the camps in Tripura. The decisions put the brakes on the BJP's out of the way moves to capture power in the Congress-ruled state. Although chief minister Lal Thanhawla had written even earlier to the prime minister asking him to recall the election commission who was playing into the hands of the Sangh Parivar, that had been of no avail.
True, Christian-majority Mizoram, the state where election is to be held on 28 November, has only 40 seats and 7.6 lakh voters, But the BJP is in a desperate race to capture that too and complete its saffron circle in the north east. As for the Congress, which has been seeing state after state slipping out of its hands, is trying all out, to hold on to power in as many states as it can. In this face to fac ebattle, the Mizo National Front (MLF), claiming monopoly over the natives, is fighting to become king-maker. Although it is in broad alliance with the BJP, the MLF line is that in Mizoram that is not necessary. Thus, in the tiny state in which three parties fight a crucial battle, the Sangh Parivar thought that the easy way to win was to use the Election Commission. The main tribal community of Brus makes up nearly 75,000 members. Of the refugees who fled to Tripura following racial riots in 1997, 32,857 people from 5,413 families have been living in the six relief camps in Tripura. All attempts to bring them back to Mizoram hit hurdles regarding the complaints about the rehabilitation package. Finally on 3rd of last July, under the aegies of the central home ministry, Tripura and Mizoram governments reached accord to repatriate the refugees. As per this, the home ministry gave directions to stop the return from refugee camps from 1 October, and to close the camps by cutting ration to the relief camps. However, only thirty families returned home during this period.
In the meanwhile came reports that the new BJP government of Tripura was into some electoral games by restoring ration to the camps that were declared to have been closed and thus by reviving them. It is at the end of these measures that the steps to facilitate voting within their camps for those who had not returned from the camps in Tripura, were taken. Mizos and several political parties came out against this action. The Mizos raised a strong demand that those who had not not arrived back in the state should not have any right to vote. If that is granted, they insisted, it should be granted also to Mizos living in other parts of the country. The act of the principal secretary coming out against allowing polling in Tripura, angered the Chief Electoral Officer. But the complaint by the Chief Electoral Officer boomeranged on him. The people got into a stir. They blockadeed his residence in Aizawl alleging that the BJP was trying to ensure its own victory by arranging voting in Tripura for people who were living in Tripura without returning to Mizoram in spite of facilities arranged for that. They also alleged that the Chief Electoral Officer Shashank was acting as willing tool for that political exercise. Similar strikes were held in front of several district level electoral offices too. When it transpired that the agitators would not give in, the Commission was left with no option but to accede to the demands of the agitators and recall Shashank.
The victory of Mizoram is one that was won by democratic forces against a crafty bypassing of people's will. It is also a blue print of how to resist the fascist onslaughts of BJP, one drawn by the joint body of civil society and student organiations named 'NGO Co-ordination Committee'.